Friday, November 13, 2009

Yushchenko's last gasp: a threat to public health

On November 11 in the lead-up to the 2010 election Viktor Yushchenko, a caretaker president, has vetoed Ukraine's proposed tax on cigarettes.

Yushchenko may have traded the health of Ukraine for a few cheap votes. Serious concern has been raised that Yushchenko has been paid off by the Tobacco lobby and may have been offered in return substantial financial support for his re-election campaign. It is estimated that one in three adults smoke in Ukraine.

Tobacco related products are the greatest cause of death and poor public health. It kills more people then the flu.  Governments world wide have acted to try and prevent the sale of tobacco and taxation is the best weapon against its spread.

Yushchenko in justifying his veto of the proposed taxation of tobacco products has falsely claimed that if the cost of cigarettes are increased Ukraine would be the target of illegal smuggling. This is far from the truth.

Ukraine is one of cheapest suppliers of tobacco products in Europe with millions of cigarettes being smuggled into Europe from Ukraine each year. Even with the modest increase in taxation Ukraine would still remain a source of cheap cigarettes. In Europe a pack of cigarettes costs 10 Euro In Ukraine less then one.

In vetoing the proposed tax Yushchenko has starved hospitals and governments of revenue whilst increasing the number of patients.